Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Sports

Sports

ASK IRA: Is a selloff of lesser players still necessary for Heat?

Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman addresses the Heat's issues of the day.
Submit your questions in the form below

 


July 1, 2015

Q: How possible would it be for the Heat to acquire new role players such as Gary Neal and Carlos Boozer if they trade Birdman, Mario Chalmers, or even Udonis Haslem? It just ­seems to me that the Heat should look into other options and trade the guys that still have a­ little value and can give the Heat somewhat of a return for them. -- Joe, Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: First, if Dwyane Wade comes back, the only reason to offload anyone would be to save against the tax. And if the Heat are looking to win, they are better off with Chris Andersen, Chalmers, Haslem, and players who know the system. Yes, there will be cheap alternatives, and I can't remember a time when Boozer hasn't been trying to get to the Heat. But the contracts of Chalmers, Andersen and Haslem all expire after this season, so there is no long-term concern with those deals. Now, if Wade leaves and the Heat want to try to carve out cap space, that is another story. Then anything and everything could be in play. But the more I think about it, the more I think Wade is returning, in part because of his lack of palatable alternatives. Beyond all of that, I'm not sure there is much of a market for Andersen, Chalmers and Haslem, and it's not as if such moves would be important enough for the Heat to sweeten the pot simply to offload the final year on those contracts.

Q: Would signing Rashard Lewis again be a good option? -- Michael, Melbourne, Australia

A: Let me preface this by saying I'm a big Rashard fan and that he came around to provide a significant boost in his most recent season with the Heat. But if the Heat are going to rely on Wade, Luol Deng and even Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic at their ages, then I think they have to think younger, whenever possible, with the balance of the roster. The lesson from last season is that all the name-recognition factor in the world doesn't help if the players aren't ambulatory.

Q: Please bear with me as I throw another Michael Beasley question your way. I don't understand how they can let him go yet again. Yes, they can redo his contract and bring him back, but would he really want to? He was great toward the end of the season, great scoring punch off the bench, improved on defense (though he did have a few lapses) and he even filled in at the five position when all our other bigs were out. -- Robert, Fayetteville, N.C.

A: Because it became clear he would not be a rotation player or even close, with the goal with the remaining spots either for specialists or developmental players. And the fact that picking up his option would have made him costlier than if he was released and later re-signed, well the writing was on the wall.


June 30, 2015

Q: So how can Pat Riley turn the clock back and make Dwyane Wade the highest-paid player on the team? Seriously, how? Maybe this is about the max contract they gave Chris Bosh and now the one they're going to give Goran. But if Wade walks away from the Heat and plays elsewhere, not only won't he be the highest paid, but he also won't be viewed as the franchise player he is now. In Miami, even with LeBron James or Shaquille O'Neal earning more, Wade was and is the superstar and fan favorite. -- Chet.

A: And this is why practically all of us are better off not knowing the salaries of our co-workers, because when those lists get out, morale goes down the drain. The problem with the NBA is everyone knows (and has to know) everyone else's salary, because of the salary-cap and luxury-tax implications. And that's the shame of this curious case of Dwyane Wade. Yes, it could be humbling to roll in for work in 2016-17 and find three higher-paid co-workers in the locker room. But only if he lets it be. He's Dwyane Wade, THE GREATEST ATHLETE IN THE HISTORY OF SOUTH FLORIDA. At some point, one would hope that would resonate far more than mere dollars and cents (not that there is anything wrong with dollars and cents). As in any business, salary often is as much a product of time and place as it is of productivity. Chris Bosh was in the right place last summer. Goran Dragic is in the right place this summer. And if things go the way the Heat hope, Hassan Whiteside could be in the right place next summer. But none of that makes them a better Heat than Wade. Hopefully, at the end of the day, the Heat maximize what they can in a workable fashion under the salary cap, while making it clear that Wade is worth more to the franchise than any salary figure attached to his name.

Q: Given all of Monday's events, and everyone said it would be a big day for the Heat, how do you think they feel now that it's over? -- Blake.

A: I think they should feel pretty darn good. Justise Winslow is in the building, looking like a comfortable fit. Luol Deng remains under contract, the perfect mentor for Winslow. And at least the Heat know where things stand with Dwyane Wade, now able to formulate a definitive plan going into free agency. Not a bad day by any means.

Q: Good luck to Dwyane Wade and the team he thinks will give him more. Thank you. -- Juan.

A: If the Lakers truly are a frontrunner for LaMarcus Aldridge, that would eat most of their cap space. And if the Knicks truly are targeting Greg Monroe and Arron Afflalo (and maybe even David West), they would be out of the mix, too. So it might come down to whether Wade would consider waiting on other teams to see where their cap space falls, and then choosing between the likes of Dallas, Milwaukee, Portland, Orlando, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Detroit or Toronto. None of them sound very Wade-ian.


June 29, 2015

Q: Why is no one talking about trading Zoran Dragic? He doesn't seem to add any value to the team and in drafting Josh Richardson, the Heat have a surfeit of second-string shooting guards (Tyler Johnson, Zoran Dragic, Henry Walker and Richardson, even Justise Winslow could play the position). Of the group considered expendable, cutting Walker and trading Dragic give the most cap room. -- Malcolm, Atlanta.

A: First, Henry doesn't impact the cap; his deal is minimal, basically a cap hold. I don't think there would be a market for Zoran. And it benefits for the Heat to hold on to him at least through the offseason, when they can carry up to 20 players, if there is a need for his guaranteed salary in a trade (Walker's deal is not guaranteed). But more than that, the Heat know having Zoran makes it even more likely they will retain Goran. Consider it just another price of free agency. And until the Heat come up with a 15th man who is considered essential (and how often does that happen?), there is no major issue with keeping Zoran, who, by the way, might be as good a perimeter 3-point shooter as anyone on the current roster.

Q: I read online that Luol Deng will probably opt out to seek a longer term deal in the neighborhood of four years at around $20 million. This is pretty much the mid-level exception. If this is the case, what are the odds the Heat use their exception to re-sign Deng to a longer deal with less annual salary? He's still only 30 (going on 33) and a quality starter who can be eased into a sixth-man position next year if Winslow advances as expected. If next summer it turns out the Heat have a legitimate shot at Durant and need cap room, there is no doubt they would have suitors for Deng's contract. -- Mal.

A: The Heat don't have to use their mid-level. They can offer him a 20-percent bump on last season's contract (or any number below that) and offer up to four years. The issue is they don't want to guarantee any money beyond this season, to have 2016 offseason flexibility. I don't see many, if any, permutations that would have the Heat offering Luol anything beyond 2015-16. Yes, you might be able to trade him down the line, but there never are guarantees there would be takers. Now, if you're talking about the type of pay cut you're mentioning (less than half what he is otherwise due in his option year) that, indeed, would be another story, but I don't see that happening.

Q: Do you trust Justise Winslow will be able to reach his full potential under Erik Spoelstra's coaching? I mean since 2008 Spo hasn't really "developed" any player nor really given a rookie a chance if his hand wasn't forced. He benched the 2008 No. 2 pick and only started him 19 games where players like Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, the Lopez Brothers and others got the start from their respective coaches. Michael Beasley's best numbers were put up on other teams. This year even injuries weren't enough to give our rookies steady minutes. Shabazz Napier, Tyler Johnson and James Ennis averaged fewer than 20 minutes. Spo hasn't developed a player his whole time here so far. The Norris Cole case can be made, but the league itself witnessed a different Norris in New Orleans. So my question is do you trust Spo can develop a player like Winslow? -- Ben.

A I disagree. I believe that Erik found games that made Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and even LeBron James more efficient. You don't design around bit players, but you do around your leading men. And I believe he will be able to find a game that works for Justise.


June 28, 2015

Q: Will the Heat be limited in singing players to summer league with potentially no open roster spots? -- Michael.

A: Just because the Heat are carrying players with partial guarantees in the offseason doesn't mean the roster is locked. Remember, you can carry as many as 20 players in the offseason, and that's not even counting summer-league types. At this stage, even assuming the best with Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic, of the 15 roster spots the Heat are allowed to carry during the regular season, spots currently are basically locked in (pending trades, free-agency departures, or other moves) for: Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen, Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Deng, Justise Winslow, Wade, Mario Chalmers, Shabazz Napier and a pair of Dragics (with Zoran's contract guaranteed). So there's three more roster spots available (potential more with trades or free-agency losses) for the likes of Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, James Ennis, Henry Walker, any of the summer leaguers, or perhaps even Michael Beasley. And, of course, the Heat will have one of the mid-level exceptions available, should they choose to add a player by that means.

Q: So rookies vs. sophomores, who has the bigger upside? Justise Winslow-Josh Richardson or James Ennis-Tyler Johnson? -- Yanussi, Miami Beach.

A: If nothing else, that should make summer league fun, to see if upgrades are on the way with the newcomers, or whether there will be upgrades in the games of those thrown into the fire last season. This is what you want in the offseason, the opportunity to evaluate potential, but also maximize potential. There is no such thing as too much young talent. And you didn't even mention Napier, who certainly does not deserve to be written off.

Q: Maybe, just maybe, the luck bug has fallen the Heat's way. Last year, as difficult as it was, brought the Heat Whiteside. Then Pat Riley completed a huge trade for Dragic. That was followed by managing to keep their No. 10 pick in this year's lottery. Landing Winslow, who hadn't even interviewed with the Heat, added to that trifecta. This organization knows how to play a winning hand. The team has the pieces to be very good short term and will attract what's needed to be a champion going forward. These are good times for Miami Heat fans. -- Chet, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Yes, they are. But such good times also could prove fleeting, depending on the decisions of Wade and Deng. What Pat Riley wants to see is how this total mix works together, a season with Whiteside, Bosh, Deng, Wade, Dragic, as well as Winslow, McRoberts and even Chalmers and Birdman. Of course money always seems to get in the way. So I guess what I would say is to enjoy the moments, but also appreciate that stability often is fleeting in the NBA. Wednesday's start of free agency will deliver a whole new set of concerns. In the end, it's all about riding the waves. 


June 27, 2015

Q: You've said that if he could, Pat Riley would redo his "challenge" to LeBron James last season. Was he doing just that with his comments about Dwyane Wade on Thursday night? He acknowledged that Wade is a pillar of the organization, that he has sacrificed the most. He gave him respect and space, not a provocation. -- Chris.

A: You are among many who noted the same thing. The difference a year ago, I think, was that Riley felt backed against the wall, and did what he previously knew best, coming out fighting. I think the entire NBA has now come to the realization that this is a players' league, and that the players hold the cards in free agency. I also thought it was interesting that there was not a social-media response from Wade, of any kind. The two should be able to come to a compromise that could provide flexibility for both sides. By Riley shying from issuing a challenge, it is a sign that civility might yet prevail. My 50-50 doubts, now have the Heat with a better-than-even shot at keeping Wade. It's a start.

Q: The Heat should let Luol Deng opt out, use the money for Wade and Goran Dragic, and put Justise Winslow in the starting five. Your thoughts? -- Francis, Philippines.

A: As I've stated, putting Deng's financial concerns aside, the best outcome for the Heat would be to have Deng mentor Winslow for a season, allowing Winslow to ease his way into the league. Of course, with the drafting of Winslow, Deng knows the writing is on the wall when it comes to a Heat future beyond this coming season. It might come down to whether Deng is comfortable playing the coming season at $10 million and then seeking a new contract next season, or whether he would want to maximize his future earnings this offseason.

Q: And with the 10th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Ira Winderman selects . . . -- Dallas, Staten Island.

A: Sorry to get to this so late, with the mailbag so full. I think what happens is that Justise Winslow will slide down the order and that the Celtics will be unable to make a late bid to preempt the Heat from selecting Winslow. I know it sounds like a longshot, but I think if Willie Cauley-Stein goes in the first six, and if Detroit sees Stanley Johnson as the preference over Winslow, then Winslow might slide to No. 10 and the Heat. Call it a hunch.


June 26, 2015

Q:  Did the Heat get a "Godfather" blessing by lucking into getting Justise Winslow? Winslow has the necessary skills to be productive off the bench behind Luol Deng (if he stays). As a starter, he'll be carried and developed by a lineup that includes Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic. His minutes will be determined by his defensive consistency and increased range. If Wade, Dragic and Deng stay this offseason, the Heat will be a true force. Do you think Winslow will be an immediate contributor off the bench/as a starter? With a little bit of a safety net built with the drafting of Winslow, does the fate of Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen seem sealed as trading chips? The Heat can definitely use the financial flexibility to keep Wade onboard, and maybe even add a veteran shooting specialist. In fact, can the drafting of Winslow affect the Wade contract talks? Winslow adds depth and competitiveness. He's a solid defender and a potential floor spacer, taking some of the offensive/defensive load off Wade. It was a pleasant surprise to find he slipped to the Heat at 10. -- Benjamin.

A: Put it this way, he fell out of the sky to the point that Thursday was the first time he ever spoke to Pat Riley. Because of that, I think that the Heat now sit back and re-evaluate . . . everything. I also think this eases concerns on the wing, be it with Deng or Wade. But the perfect outcome would be, as you mentioned, being allowed to be groomed behind Deng and Wade. I'm not sure if Winslow impacts the thought process with Chalmers or Birdman, because that part of the equation basically comes down to Wade, himself. Thursday was a very good night for Riley. Now the question is whether he can get his remaining pieces to fall into place. Having Winslow immediately eases some offseason concerns.

Q: Justise Winslow, a hard-working, defensive-minded wing who can also step out and hit the three. Hmm, who does that remind me of? Do we even want Deng to opt-in at this point, with his $10 million contract. -- Cristiano, Bethlehem, Pa.

A: Yes, very much, as the perfect player to groom and mentor Winslow, more Duke-on-Duke wisdom. The reality is that if Deng leaves, the Heat would be more likely to have to find a replacement starter at small forward in free agency, rather than simply hand the job to Winslow. And if the Heat make it work with Deng, Wade, Whiteside, Dragic and Bosh next season, it is possible the Heat would want Deng even beyond next season. The Heat would be better with Deng opting in. What is unlikely is the Heat bringing Deng back at the multi-year deal he might seek if he becomes a free agent.

Q: Is Dwyane Wade running out of options? -- Steve.

A: Of course, we still don't know if Dwyane will even require outside options. While the Lakers are looking less likely after selecting D'Angelo Russell, the door might have opened with the Knicks, who took Kristaps Porzingis and could possibly field a roster next season with Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, the free-agent signing of Greg Monroe and possibly enough free-agent money left over for Wade. Of course, that wouldn't necessarily put Wade any closer to title contention.


June 25, 2015

Q: If teams like Cleveland, Brooklyn and others are so willing to go over the tax limit, isn't that really the new "salary cap" that other teams have to meet in order to stay competitive? For this reason, isn't it justified now for the Heat to go way over the cap to keep Dwyane Wade, as well to stay relevant/competitive and with quality players? -- J.B. Miami.

A: I'm not sure the Nets were ever that "willing" to get into such a tax stratosphere; it merely was the result of a single, all-in, one-time failed play for a run at the championship. As for the Cavaliers, I'm not sure Dan Gilbert is all that enthused about paying at such rates; it's just that it's what LeBron James is telling him he must do. But there's a concern with the scenario if the Heat have to sell off Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers or even Josh McRoberts in order to create possible tax leeway for a Wade contract. As the Warriors showed in the NBA Finals, depth means plenty in today's NBA. And say what you may want about Chalmers, Birdman and McRoberts, but the Heat are better with them on the roster than with the tax relief they might otherwise allow. In a winning-is-everything world (which is where most thought the Heat reside), the goal should be reaching an agreement with Wade and also maintaining roster flexibility. I have yet to meet a fan who rooted for tax savings. Somehow, I can't envision fans cheering C-P-A! instead of M-V-P!

Q: Just an opinion, but Myles Turner would be a good choice for the Heat at No. 10. They could wind up with an excellent 4-5. The Heat need big men and Turner is as good as any after Karl-Anthony Towns. Turner is agile enough to play the four. -- Dave.

A: Got to admit, I've come around on the notion of drafting a big man if it means taking the best-available, since we don't know if Birdman even will be around this season (see the above) or have any guarantees of Hassan Whiteside staying around a year from now. In the end, Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Kaminsky or Turner might be a safer pick that a Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre or Sam Dekker. Big, in this draft, especially at No. 10, might be best.

Q: So much time between the end of the NBA season (especially, one where the Heat didn't make the playoffs), the draft and then free agency has led to another "if" premise question regarding how the Heat can get back into title contention. Of the four players who could potentially be traded on the Heat to help provide room under the salary cap or tax (Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, Birdman, and McRoberts), Birdman and McRoberts would be my first two out. If Dragic is re-signed, I still like Rio as the backup point guard compared to the other roster options (or unless the Heat could snag Cory Joseph from the Spurs), although, this probably is not the consensus among Heat fans. I just believe it became tough on Rio having to double as the backup point guard and shooting guard last season, causing a lack of necessary production from those positions in the team scheme of things. It was a move that was done not because of in-game strategy or to create favorable matchups, but because of poor roster construction. So, if Birdman is traded, should the Heat take a chance on signing JaVale McGee for the backup center position? His past maturity issues and leg injury could be a possible deterrent. But he also is a very good rim protector, is an offensive upgrade over Birdman (whose repertoire mostly consists of finishing lobs and put-back dunks that are becoming a challenge to complete as age, injury and waning athleticism are steadily taking over) and would be financially beneficial if signed to a minimum contract because he will also be paid some $12 million next season from his previous contract. -- Nikki.

A: And that's the exact point. If the tax truly is an issue with Micky Arison (and, as with most such issues, we haven't heard directly from Micky on that), then there are cheaper alternatives, such as McGee, at certain spots, without having to impact other spots. And perhaps that is where all this is headed amid Riley's grand plans for 2016, that the money will be concentrated in four or five players, and the remaining roster spots will be for those who want to come along for the ride, sort of how LeBron has it structured in Cleveland. As for Chalmers, I don't think you should overstate a third guard. A change of pace might be best for all involved. 


June 24, 2015

Q: With rumors of a possible Chris Andersen trade, does this elevate the potential of the Heat taking Willie Cauley-Stein or Frank Kaminsky, if Stanley Johnson and Devin Booker are off the board? -- Malcolm.

A: When this process started back in April with the chase for lottery seeding, and then in May, when the Heat held their No. 10 seed and did not have to forward this year's first-round pick to Philadelphia, it appeared a lock that the Heat would look to bolster a perimeter rotation down to the bare-bone likes of James Ennis and Tyler Johnson when it came to late-season depth. But now, with no certainty about whether Birdman stays or even has enough left in the tank to back up Hassan Whiteside, and whether Whiteside might be better dealt sooner rather than paid later, I've come around to the possibilities of the Heat going big. If Willie Cauley-Stein is there (which I don't believe he will be), I would go in that direction. I'm not as sold on Kaminsky, but that could put Josh McRoberts into play. I also believe that Myles Turner is more in play than initially thought. Even if Johnson is available at No. 10, I still could see the Heat going big. There should be plenty of suspense with the Heat's pick Thursday night.

Q: As much as I enjoy watching professional basketball being played, and as much as I am a fan of the Heat, I am also fully aware that this is a business, one segment of the larger entertainment industry.  There's millions of dollars that flow through this industry and I applaud talent and shrewd financial management equally.  Therefore, I am not choosing "sides" in this very public negotiation between Dwyane Wade and the Heat organization, for the player's likely last contract before retirement. I understand both positions and both parties need to settle this in the best possible way for each or their business concerns. Having said that, I will enjoy watching winning basketball next season. Whether that includes watching the Heat play is anybody's guess. I've seen the Heat win with Dwyane and I've seen the Heat lose with Dwyane.  All this other "stuff" is really meaningless to me.  One way or another, I hope these two parties settle this and we can move on and watch winning Miami Heat basketball. -- Cheryl, Fort Lauderdale.

A: And that's what made it more palatable when all this stuff, in previous Heat fashion, was handled quietly and professionally. I don't care how the sausage is made, just that it is suitable to taste. This whole affair has made the offseason, to this point, mostly unpalatable.

Q: Any chance the Heat can get Chris Bosh to restructure his contract so that they can use the money to re-sign Wade? It seems like it is his turn to "take one for the team," and they overpaid him last year -- Matt, Alpharetta, Ga.

A: You cannot restructure contracts in the NBA. Once you're in, you're in. The real question is whether Pat Riley took into account what might follow (like this) when putting that package together for Chris. The best way to get the truest value out of that contract now is to get Bosh to play up to his salary, emerge as the face of the Heat, offer big minutes and big numbers on a consistent basis. 


June 23, 2015

Q: Let's pray that Luol Deng opts out. -- Chuck.

A: I believe that is a misguided notion. Move past salary and long-term contract concerns for the moment, and consider the reality that without Deng, and without much in the way of cap maneuverability, the Heat would have nothing close to a defensive stopper or even a defensive deterrent on the roster. That is not what Dwyane Wade or Goran Dragic do best. It is not what the likes of a Mike Dunleavy Jr., as a potential roster replacement, does best. And unless someone like Matt Barnes could be added at the minimum once he is cut free by Charlotte, you could be putting that burden on one of the athletic rookies in Thursday's draft. The reality is that if you're looking to win the East, you have to get past LeBron James. And the teams that have been able to do that the past two seasons have had premier defensive stoppers, Kawhi Leonard a year ago, Andre Iguodala in the just-completed NBA Finals. Deng, even at his age, had his defensive moments against LeBron this past season. His value remains significant because of that ability, perhaps significant enough to have him bypass his opt-in and move to another East contender for more money. The best outcome for the Heat would be at least one more season with Luol.

Q: I've got this strange feeling that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James had some sort of pact in the very beginning. Sort of like this: D-Wade: "Let's make a mega team here in South Beach, the numbers will work, and lets win some championships!" LeBron: "OK, but here's the deal: After we do that, help me win some in Cleveland!" Fast forward to the plane ride they had from their Las Vegas trip. LeBron: "I think it's time for me to go to Cleveland and win some for my city!" Wade: "I can't just turn my back on Miami!" LeBron: "I understand. Just sign a one-year deal with second-year as option like me. Then see where we are at by the end of the year." Wade: "OK, I will give you that. If your team does well this year, then I may consider it." The first regular-season game played against each other this year. LeBron under his breath: "You know you want to team up again!" Wade, under his breath: "OK, if you win the Finals, I will do it!" Alas, LeBron 's secret motivation! LeBron had his people leak the bad negotiations with the Heat with Wade to facilitate his transition to Cleveland. Boo yah! Wade's father is wearing a Cleveland shirt! C'mon Man! -- Bryan, Fort Lauderdale.

A: OK, you figured it all out. You win one of Dan Gilbert's Fatheads (maybe even one of Dan Gilbert himself). But Part B of your wildly enjoyable screenplay is that the Cavaliers now have to move on without Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to make it all happen. Please forward me the dialogue in time for that rewrite deadline. And remember, we can't guarantee we'll pay union scale.

Q: Do you think most Heat fans appreciate that you really can't push for "low-cost" alternatives (to the roster) so Wade is happy and then complain the roster is only seven or eight deep come playoff time? -- David, North Miami Beach.

A: I think most Heat fans believe that there still can be depth without Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers with a rotation that could otherwise include Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, the Heat's first-round pick on Thursday (that's seven right there), plus Udonis Haslem, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Johnson and perhaps Michael Beasley and Zoran Dragic, or even Henry Walker.


June 22, 2015

Q: If Goran Dragic doesn't come back, who could Miami pick up to replace him? -- Brown.

A: Look, right now this is all a house of cards. I would expect Goran's deal to be one of the first done in free agency, perhaps the first one done. That deal basically got done at the trade deadline, when Goran offered a list of places he wanted to play and the Suns accommodated him. Pat Riley then gave up two potential lottery picks and even added the salary of Dragic's brother, Zoran. The Heat have so much invested in the deal that if Dragic is even seen meeting with another team it would be a huge blow to the Heat's reputation, No, when it comes to Dragic, the dialogue has to be as simple as both sides, at 12:01 a.m. July 1, saying, "Deal." If the deal is not closed, then the Heat will be back in 2014, having to pick up devastating pieces, asking fans yet again for more time to make things right. I would have to believe that Pat Riley has been walking around with a Dragic contract every day since Feb. 19, with "sign here" the only remaining part of the equation, a dollar figure already mutually agreed upon.

Q: I disagree with you and don't think it will have an overwhelming effect on guys like Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside if Dwyane Wade decides to leave. I think if Heat management continues to bring in quality talent, players will continue to play and want to stay in Miami. -- Doug, Oakland, Calif.

A: As with Goran, I believe that Dwyane most likely (but not definitively) stays. However, moving forward without both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade after those four seasons in the Finals would require a dramatic readjustment for fans when it comes to embracing the team that remains. For Chris Bosh, it would mean returning to stand front and center, just as he did in Toronto. For Dragic, it would mean becoming the leading man in the backcourt. For Whiteside, it would have to mean dominance.

Q: I'm struggling to see why the Heat aren't set on Frank Kaminsky. If Pat Riley is still in a win-now mode, wouldn't Kaminsky make the most sense? His field-goal and 3-point percentages are higher than Stanley Johnson and Kelly Oubre. The only other player that rivals his numbers is Devin Booker. In addition, Kaminsky has improved each year and appears to have maturity that would complement the "youth movement" that seems to be in progress with Shabazz Napier, James Ennis, Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. -- Chris, Gainesville.

A: But he doesn't play on the wing, and the Heat already have Bosh, Whiteside, McRoberts, Birdman and Haslem in the power rotation. You make a compelling argument for the player, the person and the potential. But the position also matters, especially amid the uncertainty with Luol Deng and Wade.


June 21, 2015

Q: The Heat and Dwyane Wade knew this day was coming. Why was there no plan in place? If the tax penalty will prohibit the solution you raised, then what is more realistic? -- Dave.

A: The tax does not have to get in the way any more than it already is for the Heat in order for Wade to still get the maximum of $23.5 million this offseason, which would not impact any other Heat personnel move this offseason. Yes, there would be a huge difference in the tax if the Heat pay Wade $23.5 million this coming season instead of the $16.1 million he has remaining on his contract. But if that is what makes Micky Arison balk (and we don't know, because there has been no public comment, just behind-the-scenes maneuvering), then there is a solution for that: To keep the overall payroll at the same total with a higher Wade salary, the Heat could simply offload the contracts of Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen (or even Josh McRoberts or Udonis Haslem) by dealing them for picks. In that case, a draft pick of Frank Kaminsky or Myles Turner could cover the Heat in the power rotation for the loss of Birdman (or McRoberts or Haslem) and utilizing Shabazz Napier (or Tyler Johnson) in place of Chalmers would address that void. What always gets lost in the luxury-tax equation is the notion that the most recent contract is what triggers the tax. The tax is a product of the overall payroll.

Q: If Wade becomes another "smiling face with a hidden agenda," will it dent Pat Riley's reputation? After all, it will mean he lost two of the best players in the league. -- Erik, Plantation.

A: This whole embarrassing episode has dented the reputations of everyone involved, with these passive-aggressive approaches. I have been surprised how a pair of seemingly Teflon personalities in South Florida, both Wade and Riley, have been tarnished. The behavior all around has been unbecoming. "Heat Family" has turned into reality TV.

Q: Could Khem Birch still be an option for the team? He could develop into a nice backup to Hassan Whiteside with some work with Juwan Howard and Alonzo Mourning, as they mentored Whiteside. -- Chris, Miami.

A: Again, that's another type of low-budget alternative the Heat could turn to if there is a need to trim payroll to accommodate a significant pay increase for Wade under the tax. This time, the "sacrifice" might have to come from the construction of the roster, itself.


June 20, 2015

Q: Ira, let's assume that Dwyane Wade does leave to go play for another team. What options does that leave the Heat? Would that clear up $16 million of cap space? How can we replace him? Can we go after someone like Jimmy Butler or another good young player? How would you see the Heat's options shaping up? -- Al, Miami.

A: In the NBA's salary-cap world, losing a $16 million player does not mean you can replace him with a $16 million player. If Dwyane were to leave free and clear as a free agent, the Heat likely would remain over the salary cap or so close to the salary cap that their best remaining option would be utilizing the $5.5 mid-level exception for a replacement. That's assuming Goran Dragic re-signs and doesn't even take into account whether Luol Deng returns. The only way the Heat could get commensurate replacement value would be to help facilitate a Wade sign-and-trade agreement with another team. Basically, if Wade leaves, you likely would be looking at a Gerald Green-level stop-gap replacement.

Q: Hello Ira, there are rumors going around regarding Carlos Boozer wanting to sign with the Heat. Also, if that is the case, do you see Josh McRoberts being traded along with Mario Chalmers? -- Paul, Miami.

A: There has not been a time when Carlos Boozer has been available -- either as a free agent, amnesty release or trade component -- that he hasn't made it privately known he would welcome a move to the Heat. He has lived in Miami and operated basketball camps in the area. And that's the thing, if the luxury tax truly is an inhibitor to giving Wade a maximum deal for 2015-16, there are way to mitigate such a tax hit by trading away salary for bargain replacements such as Boozer. Should the Heat, say, trade McRoberts (and/or Chris Andersen) along with Mario Chalmers, a Wade raise would not impact the overall salary cap from where it otherwise would stand by not opting out. And there almost always are low-cost replacements available for players outside of the primary rotation.

Q: Do you think the Heat will pick up Michael Beasley's option? I haven't really heard at all about Beasley anywhere but I really feel like if he just works on his defense, he'll really make a strong impact for the Heat and he'll fit perfectly with Miami. -- Justin, Miami Springs.

A: I sure do miss the Beasley questions and sure would miss Michael if he moved on again. But I don't see any reason why the Heat would pick up Beasley's option and guarantee his 2015-16 salary, when he should otherwise be available at any time to sign to a non-guaranteed deal. It doesn't mean that Beasley won't necessarily be back next season, just that it's a decision the Heat do not have to commit to at the moment, by their deadline for his option. 


June 19, 2015

Q: Long time Heat fan and reader here so please forgive my lengthy question. My question pertains to this recent narrative regarding Dwyane Wade's unhappiness with the Heat's management. I love and appreciate Dwyane and everything that he has done for the Heat, so forgive me, but how specifically has Wade been disrespected by the organization? Each of his alleged complaints (1. Talent level he's surrounded with; 2. His individual talent level; 3. Compensation) can easily be disproved and come off more than a tad hypocritical. They have consistently surrounded Dwyane with the best talent possible at the time. How many other players, over the course of their careers, can say that their organization obtained the best player in the game twice (Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James) to help them win a title? On top of that, the Heat have consistently made moves to bring in other All-Star caliber players (Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Shawn Marion, Goran Dragic) throughout Dwyane's tenure. This past year was obviously not a success, but that was largely due to Pat Riley not knowing that LeBron was leaving and putting together the best roster he could at the time. Even with that factor, the Heat did not remain stagnant but traded for Dragic and lucked into picking up Hassan Whiteside from the D-League. Also, regarding Wade's performance, he is simply not worthy of the contract that he is seeking. I understand that his numbers say that he is still one of the best shooting guards in the game, but if you actually watch the games (which I know that you do, Ira), this is not the case. Wade routinely misses at least a quarter of each year with injury and spends close to another quarter of the year "easing his way back" into form from injury. On top of that, even when he is in form, he is consistently a liability on defense (both not getting back in transition and routinely guarding the other team's worst player) and often plays hero ball at the end of close games which takes the collective air out of the team. While the D-Wade from two years ago made everyone around him better, today's D-Wade only does this for about 30 to 40 games a year. Is a player like this really worthy of a max contract? And last, but not least, you can't say that winning is the ultimate priority but then handicap your franchise with a contract that does not allow them to sign players that could contribute toward a championship. I understand the lifetime-achievement factor, but how is that working out for the Lakers and Kobe Bryant? And let's not pretend that Dwyane has not been paid handsomely throughout his time with the Heat. While he has never been their highest-paid player in an individual season (a great storyline to float), has he not been paid more actual dollars than any other player in this franchise's history throughout his tenure with the Heat? And who else is going to pay him the money that at he's seeking? The teams that have the cap space available are not in championship contention, so he would look like a hypocrite if he signs with them. So he will sign with another organization that is in championship contention for less money than the Heat is offering to spite them for their "mistreatment" of him for all these years? So he'll reward another team that has not been loyal to him for the past 12 years by taking a discount but he won't do that for an organization that has delivered him three championships? I know that math has changed since I was in school, but I'm pretty sure that one and one does not equal four. As an avid Heat fan who actually pays attention (we have these in South Florida, as well, you know), I just can't wrap my head around this narrative so please help me understand. -- Eric, Fort Myers.

A: And thus a compelling case for management has been made. (And, yes, we've left messages with Wade's representation for rebuttal.) Thing is, both sides can justify their case, especially with the $10 million that Wade left on the table last July. This very much can turn into the ugliness that is baseball's arbitration process, and get even more public and even uglier. Or it could (as it should) be handled behind closed doors, so neither side has to publicly sully such otherwise sterling reputations.

Q: Ira, I love Dwyane Wade and hope that he stays, but if he leaves and the Heat do re-sign Goran Dragic, can you honestly say that they won't be better with a younger player or two that won't miss 20 to 25 games a year and can play back to backs? -- Raul, Naples.

A: But Dwyane's decision doesn't come in a vacuum. That's the issue. How will his decision reverberate? It could leave the Heat without Dragic, as well. And it could give Hassan Whiteside pause a year from now in free agency.

Q: Hey Ira, you and I and possibly a lot of people are really excited going into this season. I think we have a really good rotation of bigs, but I'm just wondering with Josh McRoberts and Chris Andersen slotted to receive minutes, where does this leave Udonis Haslem and his role on the team besides the captain? Maybe it's time to hang it up and join Juwan Howard? -- Manny, Clovis, New Mexico.

A: Not as long as a contract is in place, and Udonis still has another year to go on a deal that helps make him whole from previous sacrifices he has made. He will be back for one more season, which possibly could be a final season.


June 18, 2015

Q: I know that Pat Riley loves big men, and I'm sure this won't affect their contract negotiations, but after seeing how Golden State won a championship playing small ball with their starting center on the bench, didn't Goran Dragic's market value go up slightly while Hassan Whiteside's went down slightly? And while we're on that subject, I think Dwyane Wade's market value went down a little, as well, given his skill set and style of play. -- David.

A: While much is made of the various combinations the Warriors played, that should also be the biggest takeaway from their championship. It wasn't that the Warriors played big early in the playoffs and smaller late. It was that they had the wealth of options to emerge as a chameleon champion. And that makes the biggest takeaway from their title how they had such an abundance of riches. So it's not as if the Heat need Dragic more than Whiteside or Wade, it's that the Heat need them all, as well as the type of depth they lacked this past season to as flexible as they were during their title runs. The return of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts will go a long way toward restoring flexibility. But what they also need are options on the wing, as they had with Shane Battier and Mike Miller. The Heat don't need to make big splashes in the draft or free agency. They just can't miss. They need the type of depth that will make everyone better, including Erik Spoelstra.

Q: How much should we look into Dwyane Wade's comment about "When I was in Miami"? Should I be worried? And do you think he would join LeBron James in Cleveland? -- Tyler, Jackson, Mich.

A: We should look at it this way: It's time Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade sit down and get this entire mess behind them. It's embarrassing. If Wade's comment was taken out of context, he (or his various PR aides) could have quickly quelled the brewing storm by sending out a clarifying tweet. None was forthcoming. And Pat Riley has not been seen nor heard recently, even as South Florida is searching for any insight into the team's draft preparations. Silence might be The Heat Way. But right now, Heat Family is coming off more as myth than reality. As for Part B of your question, I do wonder if LeBron would necessarily want Dwyane in Cleveland, with so much breaking down around him this season on Cleveland's roster.

Q: So no Stanley Johnson (Pistons) or Devin Booker (Hornets) it looks like? Does the mean that Mario Hezonja is going to be the newest member the Miami Heat? Or is there a chance the Heat take a guy like Kelly Oubre? I'm also wondering how the Heat feel about Frank Kaminsky. -- Bryan, Mountain View, Calif.

A: I still think it could be Johnson or Booker to the Heat. It all could come down to whether Willie Cauley-Stein and/or Frank Kaminsky go among the first nine picks. Cauley-Stein is a floater (which, to a degree, Trey Lyles is, as well). I think the Heat would gladly take Johnson or Booker, but also wouldn't be surprised if live-in-the-moment Pat Riley gives consideration to Kaminsky as somewhat of a bargain at this salary slot. Such a move could ease a trade of Josh McRoberts and provide insurance if Whiteside can't be retained next summer.


June 17, 2015

Q: So it appears now that after current trades both Detroit and Charlotte may be looking to draft wings. Any possibility Pat Riley can swap with Denver or any other suitor? -- Yanusi, Miami Beach.

A: I agree that by adding Ersan Ilyasova, the Pistons are now likely to upgrade on the wing, either in the draft or free agency. Stan Van Gundy has said as much. And by moving Lance Stephenson, the Hornets' focus also would appear to be on the wing, particularly shooting. But I'm not sure that the Heat have enough pieces to move up, with first-round picks still due to the 76ers and the Suns (two). More than likely, the Heat will have to either wait out the process and see which wings slip, or else go for best talent available at another position. Trading down to help augment the team's lack of depth also could be an option. But you are correct that the teams directly ahead of the Heat in the draft could be looking for exactly what the Heat covet, now more than ever.

Q: I hope the Heat do not draft because of need. None of the wings expected to be on the board at number 10 seem to be better than the wing players we already have. Luol Deng, Henry Walker and even Michael Beasley are better than Stanley Johnson and Kelly Oubre. I hope we draft the best player left at number 10, or we draft a specialty player: a very good 3-point shooter and defender, or another big man who can replace Hassan Whiteside if he decides to walk next year. -- Raul, Miami.

A: First, nothing is guaranteed with Deng, who can opt out by the end of the month. Even if he stays, he hardly appears to have a long-term future with the team, because of the salary composition of the roster. And if the Heat can't find an upgrade on Walker and Beasley in this draft, then there should be a look at how they scout. While an argument could be made that James Ennis could be at the same stage as a Kelly Oubre or even Stanley Johnson in terms of potential development, the prospects at the top of this draft on the wing have greater long-term upside. And I don't think the Heat can concern themselves at the moment of the possibilities of losing Whiteside next summer. What they have to do is put together a roster that restores the view of the Heat as a contender. I have absolutely no issue with taking the best player available. Depth remains too much of a concern for the Heat to get too picky. What matters more than anything is the Heat have to draft a player who matters, either at the moment or as a long-term answer at a starting position.

Q: Is the No. 10 draft pick a slam dunk for Riley or will he pick another Mike Beasley? -- Rodney, Sarasota.

A: Look, many considered Beasley a "slam dunk," so you don't always know how the aftermath draft will play out. But I do believe Riley will also place significant value on upside, as a means to ensure getting immediate value out of this year's pick.


June 16, 2015

Q: Ira, I don't know if LeBron's "secret motivation" will come out if Cleveland loses the series, but is Pat Riley braced for what he might hear? Players saw LeBron leave last year and Pat can't have anyone piling on. -- Franklin.

A: First, no one knows exactly what LeBron James might or might not say, especially since we don't know if he will say anything. Perhaps we'll get better insight Tuesday night when Dwyane Wade returns to ABC's pregame set, since Wade said that LeBron confided in him about his motivation. What I do know is that there likely will be no reaction one way or another from Riley, mainly because I think if Riley had it to do over he would not have issued his challenge last June to LeBron about staying. The players who have arrived since LeBron left have spoken glowingly about the opportunity to play for an organization run by Riley. With free agency looming, the last thing the Heat need to do is revisit anything to do with how LeBron left. But I do wonder if Riley and the Heat ever again will have comfort with players represented Rich Paul, who fronts LeBron's agency in Cleveland. Norris Cole switched representation to Paul last summer and then was gone in February.

Q: At the end of Michael Jordan's tenure with the Bulls, he was getting full-max, one-year deals, twice if I recall correctly. With no major free agent in sight for this offseason, why can't the Heat just give Wade a one-time, one-year, full-max deal, then renegotiate next year? -- Choy, Vancouver.

A: I initially floated that, except Dwyane wants more than one-year or even the max of $23.5 million in security. He wants assurances of getting back what he essentially "loaned" to the team last summer, and then assurances of something beyond. That's why I've floated one year at the $23.5 million max for 2015-16 (when it would not impact Heat personnel moves) and then a player option for 2016-17. That way, if Wade believes he needs help next summer or comes to believe a top-tier free agent wants to join him, he can forgo the second season and negotiate something longer-term at shorter dollars for 2016-17. It essentially would give him some of the control of the situation that the Heat seemingly prefer he cede.

Q: Without players formally declaring their intentions on either opting in or opting out, wouldn't they technically remain under contract until they opt out? Meaning, can't those players be traded until otherwise declaring opting out of the contract? -- Chris, Miami.

A: No, as long as a player (or a team) hold an option, with free agency otherwise being the result, that player remains frozen. Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng only can be dealt if they first opt in. Michael Beasley only can be dealt if the Heat first pick up his 2015-16 option. All others on the Heat roster can be dealt at any time.


June 15, 2015

Q: I'd explore Chris Bosh trades. Bosh will never live up to that salary. I'm sure we could cherry pick a ton of Houston's young talent and maybe grab Trevor Ariza and Terrance Jones to make the numbers work there. We have to face the fact that the future is Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, so we need to build around it with pieces that fit their skill set. We can easily get young and athletic, with shooters and some solid vets like Ariza to form a heck of a unit. No more of this position-less sales pitch, which really meant we couldn't do our job by finding pieces so let say we are position-less. Please share your thoughts, Ira. -- Adam, Plantation.

A: Look, in the end, you might be right. But considering that the Heat currently have Bosh and have yet to see how he meshes with Dragic, there has to be a degree of patience. Until you know what you have with Whiteside, Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Dragic, why start searching for other combinations? And why wouldn't Bosh work alongside Dragic? I would think they would be a perfect pick-and-roll combination, especially with Bosh's ability to either shoot off the screen or finish on the roll. Beyond that, Dragic basically targeted the Heat because of the opportunity to play alongside Bosh and Wade. Move away from that too soon and Dragic might not find the Heat as enticing a long-term destination. While I acknowledge the Heat's lack of quality depth is a legitimate concern, how many East teams have a better four-man starting core than Whiteside, Bosh, Wade and Dragic? If it doesn't work, you will have plenty of time before 2016 free agency to reset your priorities.

Q: Ira, is something missing here? The way the salary-cap conversations have been going you would think we have a group of All-Stars. The fact is we have a declining Dwyane Wade, a recovering Chris Bosh, a project center, and a solid point guard. I don't understand how there is not enough money to go around. Do any of these guys deserve the max? I don't think so. -- Michael, New York.

A: There is more than enough money to go around for those four. What there isn't, at least how the contracts are currently structured or desired, is enough to also add an A-list free agent in the 2016 offseason. That's where the math fails the Heat. And that's why it's so important to see how this roster works. Beyond that, with so many teams loading up with space for the 2016 offseason, there always is the possibility of trading away one of the Heat's bigger contracts in order to create space for 2016 free agency. That could make the 2016 trade deadline particularly intriguing. But Wade-Dragic-Whiteside-Bosh and a 2016 A-list free agent? The Heat must be working off different math that what the ledger of the current payroll indicates.

Q: Will Hassan Whiteside be on the Miami Heat's summer league team? -- Darryl, Fitzgerald, Ga.

A: No, nor should he be. There are two elements to offseason programs. One is summer league, which affords players who have seen limited action to experience NBA game conditions. The other is summer camp, which allows the staff to work with returning veterans to refine their skills. The latter is what is most important at this stage for Hassan. He got to experience more than enough game action this past season. Returning players such as Shabazz Napier, James Ennis and Tyler Johnson are the ones who need the game action, and all three are expected to play summer league for the Heat.


June 14, 2015

Q: From what I have researched, the Heat would have the money to sign Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic if Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen were traded. Udonis Haslem has shown he can still provide in place of Birdman (who can't possibly have that many seasons left) and with our NBA Draft pick we can grab a backup point guard or look for Shabazz Napier and Tyler Johnson to provide what I think they can bring off the bench. Am I crazy or is this realistic? -- Zachary, Parkland.

A: That's not exactly the case. What thinning the rest of the roster would do would be to ease a potential luxury-tax hit for Micky Arison if Dwyane (perhaps on a one-year basis) and Goran are given max or near-max salaries for next season. But, to a greater point, there is a case to be made about thinning out salaries that are above the minimum at positions of duplication. So if Napier and perhaps either Zoran Dragic or Tyler Johnson prove to be enough to round out a backcourt rotation with Goran and Dwyane, then I could see Chalmers possibly being dangled. Ditto with Birdman, should the Heat deem Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Udonis Haslem to be enough at the top of the power rotation. Basically, the Heat met their loyalty obligation with the type of contracts offered to Chalmers and Birdman last summer. But I do not envision that Heat drafting a backup point guard at No. 10. I see adding a wing as a much more significant need.

Q: Watching the NBA Finals, I’m struck by the fact that the vaunted Western Conference teams really weren't as superior as all of the regular-season hype. Sure, the team records were better than the Eastern Conference, but, as always, the East has more focus on defense, while the Western Conference has a more open style of play. The Spurs-Clippers series showed that those two teams had superior talent, but the other Western Conference playoff teams have deficiencies that make them just as vulnerable as the East in a seven-game series. Looking at the Finals, having LeBron James is certainly a big advantage, but playing tough, solid defense, having a go-to scorer, and the ability to define a strategy over a seven-game series creates a balance. Not taking anything away from the Cavs and LeBron, but a healthy Indiana Pacers team could have wreaked havoc in the Finals against Golden State. Golden State may still win the series, but in a playoff series, I do think the field has been leveled by a team with one superstar and a few tough role players. -- Paul, Fort Lauderdale.

A: No, there was plenty of talent in the West, and I think if you rank the playoff teams based on pedigree, you would probably have the Cavs as well as five or six (or more) West teams in the mix. But that's the very point, that an East team doesn't have to beat all the West teams, just one. It is why the Heat are positioned for resurrection. While this Heat roster might not be good enough to contend at the top of the West, it could shape up as one that could challenge at the top of the East, and then have at least the puncher's chance this undermanned Cavaliers roster is having.

Q: Since when did attending a four-day class constitute graduating from Harvard? -- Howard.

A: When Dwyane Wade, a player who couldn't even qualify to play his first year at Marquette because of grades, steps up to take a four-day business class at Harvard Business School. It's a neat little story that's worth noting and having a little fun with. Any time you can note an NBA player in a scholastic setting, it sets a worthwhile example.


June 13, 2015

Q: "The team I was with." What a backhanded insult by LeBron James. What did the Heat management do so terrible to him, not letting his people run the show? If he loses this series, then it's still true his only titles are from "that team he was with." What's ironic is LeBron was critical of the Heat because they relied too much on him (to do the heavy lifting and too many minutes) and now his heavy lifting burden is even more with more minutes. It's almost as if someone brainwashed LeBron that Miami was so harsh and so terrible to him. He seems to forget the scathing letter that Dan Gilbert wrote about him. Pat Riley would never write such a letter. If anything, he would've praised LeBron and shown gratitude (if LeBron didn't leave in the way he did). -- Martin.

A: First, while I thought LeBron's comment was curious at the end of his Thursday press session, there are some who believe he was talking about all the teams he was with, Cleveland and Miami, that struggled to win in Boston during the playoffs. And I would almost bet that he will downplay the comment the first time he is asked. As for being relied upon for too much, not having Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving changed everything. He never envisioned these lineups when he returned to Cleveland. And with Dan Gilbert, it is odd how little he has been visible during the playoffs. I don't think that's by accident. But, again, the reality is that LeBron is bigger than the game. He's showing that in this series and showed it throughout the season. But the way he chose to turn this phrase was more than a bit intriguing.

Q: I think Goran Dragic should be the one to take a step back and take one for the team, not Dwyane Wade. And by doing it, it would be give the Heat a bit of space to work a deal out with Wade, don't you think? I don't see why Goran should be paid over Wade when he came in midseason. Your thoughts? -- George.

A: My thoughts are that because it is almost assured that both Dragic (for sure) and Wade (just about for sure) will opt out, it will allow Pat Riley to sit down with his contract proposals for the two in free agency side by side and figure out the best math for the team. Because Dragic wants to play alongside Wade, it could ease the split of the salary pie. But Dragic has far, far more leverage. And in the NBA, more leverage equals more salary.

Q: Do you believe that Shabazz Napier has the upside to be a decent rotation player down the road? -- Dave.

A: If he does what he said he hopes to achieve this offseason, and that's work on his shot and his quickness, he has a chance. Upgrading his percentage is doable. But adding more explosion is another story. As an undersized guard, Napier began the process at a deficit. Now it's a matter of finding enough to upgrade to overcome his physical shortcomings.


June 12, 2015

Q: Lost in all this talk about Dwyane Wade's value to the Heat and vice versa is Wade's value to the free market of advertising, which can come close to or even exceed what he makes as player and would continue for years after he's done. Wade being a "Heat Lifer" has a very definitive appeal on the national stage that bring in a ton of money for Dwyane.  If he leaves, won't he be risking some of this as well? -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.

A: Quite the opposite. What LeBron James has shown with his move first to the Heat and then back to the Cavaliers is that America loves a star at the top of his game and at the top of the standings, regardless of where he plays, especially when he's winning. And much of the talk of marketing dollars is overstated beyond the singular star in any sport (in this case, LeBron). Salary still goes a long, long way toward a player's net worth. The contract is where the wealth starts. Then you build upon that. About the only impact of a Wade departure on his marketing might be in Miami, where his endorsements are somewhat limited. What Dwyane needs more than anything when it comes to branding is getting back on the national stage. At the crux of much of this talk about Wade's future is the question of whether the Heat can put him back on that national stage. It is much easier to take less when you know the results are going to be more. After a lottery season is when you tend to weigh wins vs. salary.

Q: If Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside don't play at All-NBA levels, Goran Dragic won't make a difference. -- Aura.

A: The range of opinions from Heat fans of what Dragic is and what he can become has been surprising. When he was acquired at the trading deadline, the view was he was a franchise-type player. Now some, such as yourself, seemingly are casting him as a fourth wheel. If he's just that, then based on the contract he is about to receive, the Heat are in trouble. If, as expected, he signs a five-year deal with the Heat, then he eventually has to transition at least to a No. 2 option behind Chris Bosh. The reality is Dragic has yet to play his first game with Bosh and has only limited experience alongside Whiteside. For now, it's all about forecasting the eventual chemistry. If Dragic is not at least an All-Star candidate, then all bets might be off regarding the Heat's resurrection.

Q: Do you think Pat Riley ships out Mario Chalmers or Josh McRoberts? If so, what could he receive? -- Brian, Auburndale.

A: The only basketball reason for moving Chalmers, at his lower-end salary, is if you believe he is a detriment to the team, or if you think the Heat mix has become stale. I don't think either is the case. As for McRoberts, I'm not sure what the market would be without first seeing whether he is back from his knee surgery. And I believe there remains a faction inside the Heat intrigued by McRoberts' possibilities. Of course, if the luxury tax becomes an issue because of Wade's negotiations, or is made into one by Micky Arison, then all bets could be off regarding those not at the team's core who are earning more than the minimum.


June 11, 2015

Q: The Heat have always been very loyal to their players and there is no reason they would be any different with Dwyane Wade. Why don't they make some sort of implied, unofficial (but not blatantly illegal) agreement to compensate Wade while he holds some sort of newly created position within the organization after his playing days are over? This seems like a no-brainer. Wade helps the team now (as he has been doing his whole career) and Micky Arison and Pat Riley will more than take care of him later as a true Heat-lifer. Win-win. -- Jon.

A: Lose-lose. Because the NBA then would swoop in and seize future draft picks. No front-office job, including Pat Riley's, pays the type of money that Wade can earn as a player. That is the type of thing the NBA watches very, very carefully. As it is, teams tend to skirt around rules involving future contracts (an agreement cannot be signed now with an unsigned agreement on a future, separate contract). If Dwyane Wade were to suddenly get a $10 million front-office job, the Heat would suddenly start to lose draft picks.

Q: How come the Miami Heat owe Dwayne Wade for his past sacrifice? Wasn't the sacrifice for titles? -- Stone, Miami.

A: Not the $10 million he gave up last summer. That was done amid the hope of Riley constructing another championship rendition this past season. Wade basically loaned the Heat the collateral to make something special happen last summer. They made Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger happen. Now the loan is coming due. Consider it a Wade cash call.

Q: If everything goes right for the Heat, including bringing back Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng, as well as Chris Bosh recovering successfully from his blood clots, and picking up a needed 3-and-D player in the draft and or free agency, how long is it until the Heat start contending again? -- Harrison, Delray Beach.

A: Well, you certainly make that sound simple. If Wade, Dragic and Deng can be worked out amicably this summer, if Bosh is healthy (and if Hassan Whiteside plays at the level he did last season), then, yes, a wise draft pick (which, heck, we might as well assume, as well) and a budget free agent should have the Heat somewhere close to the top of the Eastern Conference. Then again, with the Bulls working under a first-year coach, with the Hawks possibly having maxed out, with Paul Pierce no lock to return to the Wizards, it's not as if it would take much for the Heat to position themselves closer to the Cavs.


June 10, 2015

Q: OK, seriously, are we not going to address Goran Dragic? I like Dragic, but how does he have the stones to demand the max? He isn't even an All-Star, let alone a superstar. He averaged 16.6 points and 5.3 assists on Miami. Since when did mediocrity earn top dollar not only in basketball, but in life? It's infuriating. Pat Riley needs to take a step back and assess the situation, again and again. -- H.P., New Jersey.

A: First, neither Goran nor his agent have publicly come out and demanded the max, nor has Riley said anything about offering the max. Yes, Dragic wants to get paid, and spoke late in the season about the security of the extra year the Heat is allowed to offer. But you can bet that, just as he has and will with Dwyane Wade, Riley will present Dragic with a list of possibilities that will include how much he could earn in relation to the quality of supporting pieces that can be placed around him. The only thing you’ve read in this space is that Dragic has Riley over barrel, with the Heat having already committed two potential lottery picks to the Suns. The Dragic scenario is another example of seeing how the cult of Riley is (or is not) able to maximize the Heat's possibilities. There are many ways that Goran's Heat offer can be constructed.

Q: The Wade and Dragic situation is the difficult part of Pat Riley's summer, but knowing what our bench needs is a piece of cake: JaVale McGee, Dorell Wright, Gerald Green. -- Dallas, Staten Island.

A: Except the Heat will be limited to a single mid-level exception, and that most likely will be a tax-payer mid-level that is less than $4 million. Outside of Wright, I doubt you're getting any of those players at that price. The better way to round out next season's depth could be in trades, perhaps involving Josh McRoberts' salary. The player the Heat select at No. 10 in the NBA Draft likely will dictate the direction the Heat then go in pursuit of needed depth.

Q: The more I see LeBron James playing his heart out for his home-state team, the more I imagine how painful it'd be for the Heat to lose their adoptive son and face-of-the-franchise player in Dwyane Wade. Sure, not being able to capitalize on the 2016 free-agent class could be a big blow, but this is D-Wade we're talking about. Wouldn't his loss be much more devastating than any potential post 2016-mediocrity? -- Cris, Bethlehem, Pa.

A: I remember Dolphins fans who couldn't wait to get rid of Dan Marino when they thought there might be opportunities to upgrade. Sentimentality basically only lasts until the start of free agency.


June 9, 2015

Q: Looking at the Heat’s future cap situation, I feel like there are different ways for them to conduct this offseason if they want to set up for the next few years. Though I think the Heat only really need a 3-and-D player, and probably another shooter, could the Heat attempt to move any, or all, of Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers, Birdman, Shabazz Napier and possibly even Hassan Whiteside and/or Luol Deng if the right deal were to arise for them (obviously assuming Deng opts in or they agree to some sort of sign-and-trade if he opts out)? Maybe they could add a draft pick. Then, the roster space could allow them to bring in a couple of younger and cheaper talents to fill out the roster and create flexibility. Maybe sign a free agent or two (depending on who or what they have to take on in the prior trades) and call it an offseason? This would allow us to still compete this coming season, but have more flexibility moving forward, so we don't end up like the Clippers. -- Zach, Miami Beach.

A: I will say this: When the Heat rounded out their roster last summer in the wake of LeBron James' departure they did not foresee adding Whiteside and then trading for Dragic. So I believe there is something to be said for your thinking, when it comes to reimagining the roster. While there are no guarantees going forward regarding Whiteside (and, to a lesser degree, possibly Dragic), this would at least allow the Heat to focus on how to best support a roster constructed around Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Dragic (and likely Dwyane Wade). This is a different core than the Heat had last summer, and I agree that it probably means tearing up the previous blueprint. What the Heat first have to do is get reads on Wade, Dragic and Deng, and then sit down as see how to best complement their new core both in the moment and for the future.

Q: What do you think about drafting Frank Kaminsky at No. 10? I believe that he will be the best player available and has a higher upside than some of the other players I have seen mocked to us, such as Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre. Why not take a chance on a big man who has a very high ceiling rather than just trying to fill a need? Centers with his skill set are rare in the NBA. He could be the future of the franchise since Wade is on the decline and so is Bosh to a lesser extent. Whiteside is nowhere near as good as Kaminsky and is very limited offensively. -- Shawn, Centreville, Pa.

A: Again, this is why it was so important that the Heat retained their No. 10 pick in the lottery. Basically any pick comes down to these two questions: Do the Heat select for the moment, choosing a player to best complement this roster for this season? Or do they, as you suggest, start thinking about their future and replacement players for those already in place? Based on Pat Riley's previous approaches, and desire to turn this around immediately, I think they draft for the moment. Then again, an argument could be made that a mature player such as Kaminsky would be a selection with the moment in mind.

Q: Do you see another team that might offer Dwyane Wade a three-year deal at $14 million per? -- Brian.

A: The Knicks, if Phil Jackson merely wants to get back in the playoff race so he then can exit stage left. The Clippers, if they lose DeAndre Jordan in free agency. The Lakers, if that's what Kobe Bryant tells them to do. Or any team in a small market with cap space that knows it otherwise could not lure a name free agent. There always are options, but it also would mean Wade having to give up some of the aspects he would prefer with another team.


June 8, 2015

Q: By signing Goran Dragic to a long-term contract, along with retaining Hassan Whiteside by offering one in the summer of 2016, if he proves to be worth it, then Pat Riley will have spent his money wisely, and gotten all that he could realistically have hoped for. Is Dragic worth the max (not to mention giving up two first-round picks)? Probably not, especially if you look at the value contract that Toronto was able to retain Kyle Lowery with. But you often overpay in free agency, and Dragic has Riley over the proverbial barrel. Regardless, in Goran and Whiteside, the Heat came out as well as could be expected, with spending some of their money a year earlier than planned. Part of the coaching staff's job is developing young talent, and part of the general manager or team presidents job, especially if they're considered among the best in the business, is to augment the roster with whatever resources they have, enabling the team to contend at the highest level. That is as much or more of a skill than clearing space to be able to chase superstars. Satisfy Dwyane Wade, without being outrageous, and move on. -- Matt.

A: Instead, someone in the Heat camp has floated Kevin Durant's name as a possible 2016 addition, as well. And I agree that such an approach almost comes across as gluttony. To be honest, I thought that was the approach once Dragic was added, to move forward with Chris Bosh, Whiteside, Dragic, Wade and whatever mid-level player was available to round out the starting five in 2016-17. Yes, more is better, but right now the concern has to be retaining Whiteside next summer, which is no given, considering the Heat will have no home-team signing advantage if Whiteside commands anything more than the average salary (Early Bird Rights).

Q:  I feel like the Heat could have made a strong push this year if they had gotten into the playoffs. The teams in the East were mostly overachievers in my opinion, with the exception of Cleveland and Chicago. However, this is an exciting period for the franchise especially what the future may hold. Although it pains me to say it, both Wade and Bosh are not the same caliber of players they once were and, although they deserve the contracts they have now (Bosh) and will receive (Wade), I do not think that it is the wisest move for the team. Is there a market for Bosh still? Can the Heat package current role players ('Rio and Chris Andersen) with the No. 10 pick to move down in the draft or trade for a good caliber combo wing or at least get good young talent? I also think that offering Dragic a max deal can be detrimental to the team, especially when what made him so attractive is that he gave you solid performance for a solid price tag. Of course the market dictates the price, but usually teams that follow the market tend to do poorly. -- Alan, Fort Myers.

A: Which makes one wonder, with the all the talk of a splash in 2016 free agency, whether the Heat aren’t simply lining up their chips this summer to deal one of them next summer. In fact, even with a trade kicker, it will be interesting to see if Dragic steps back before this summer to contemplate possible being dealt from the Heat next summer, with such a sign-and-eventually-be-traded possibility still there with Bosh.

Q: Hello, Ira. Several of the latest mock drafts have the Heat taking Devin Booker with the 10th pick because of his shooting ability. Booker may be the best shooter in this year's draft, but he was not a very good defender, as seen in Kentucky's NCAA semifinal game against Wisconsin. Thus, the Heat would be using their lottery pick to draft a bench player who's not very versatile and probably not NBA ready. The Heat can't let losing last year also be a loss in the draft.  Plus, they may just already have that player on their D-League affiliate, the Skyforce, in Andre Dawkins, who now has a year of professional-level basketball under his belt. Scotty Hopson also had a very good year with the Skyforce and definitely appeared to be ready to contribute on the NBA level. Shouldn't the Heat select the best available player with their lottery pick instead of a player who is a "one trick pony"? Shouldn't the pick be used to select a player who has the potential to pay dividends on both ends, especially when there will be experienced complementary pieces who are just specialists that will be available in free agency (and probably at low cost)? -- Nikki.

A: That's a part of the greater equation: Can the Heat find shooting elsewhere? The bottom line is they have to find it somewhere. And while getting a complete player matters, so does rounding out the roster while Dwyane Wade still is somewhat close to his prime. To draft a player who is two or three years away would mean selecting a player who would come into his prime after Wade and Bosh have passed theirs. In other words, Booker could wind up being more of a player of the moment than other better-rounded options for the Heat at No. 10. 


June 7, 2015

Q: Hey Ira, why won't the Heat sign JaVale McGee? The possibility of him and Hassan Whiteside for cheap is a good idea, two athletic 7-footers. Miami has to go dumpster diving like the Spurs. -- Don, Hallandale.

A: And that's the thing, for all the concern about a large one-year deal for Dwyane Wade in order to make him whole before the Heat have to address 2016 free agency, and for all the accompanying luxury-tax concerns, there are ways to make it all work. One way is to find lower cost options for pieces already in place. Perhaps McGee instead of Chris Andersen, to save money on a backup center. Perhaps a cheaper option than Mario Chalmers as a swing guard. Perhaps a Frank Kaminsky in place of Josh McRoberts, and then unloading McRoberts' contract. Perhaps someone with the tax-payer mid-level should Luol Deng opt out. There are ways the Heat can trim around $10 million, or even more, in salary, which could make a one-year maximum deal for Wade (perhaps with an option for Wade for a second season to guard against injury) all the more palatable.

Q:  "Family" and "loyalty" and "respect" and "honoring past sacrifices" are fine, but crippling a team's long-term ability to build a top-seeded playoff team is much bigger than Dwyane Wade. Where is the middle ground? Can we get there? -- Jack, Fort Myers.

A: The middle ground is to take care of Wade this summer, when it would have absolutely no impact on the Heat's personnel procurement, and then hope the goodwill can pay off down the road. And if you give him a player option for the second year of such a deal, then he can sense the market throughout 2015-16 (possibly recruiting along the way) and judge the viability of the Heat adding a star in 2016, and therefore working again with the Heat salary-wise.

Q: What were Miami thinking when they signed Chris Bosh to that huge contract? I mean I love him as a player, but they grossly overpaid for him. I understand they were on verge of losing him to Houston, but honestly I say they gave him almost $20 million dollars extra. To think, Dwyane Wade was there for 12 years and is looked at widely as the Heat's greatest player and to never be the highest paid player on his own team is crazy to me. Bosh wasn't looking out for the team but only himself and Pat Riley acted only out of desperation. -- Rickieth, George Town, Exuma.

A: What the Heat were thinking was that with the rising salary cap if Bosh was at the top of his game, as he played at the start of last season, then he would be a value signing. And he still could be, if healthy. What the Heat weren't thinking about at the time was also having to satisfy Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside under the cap. Remember, plenty can change in advance of 2016 free agency, including one of the current stars on the roster become a trade chip. Stay tuned.


June 6, 2015

Q: I know how crazy this will sound, but hear me out: With Tom Thibodeau likely to still be floating out there as a potential coaching hire, is there any chance Pat Riley goes that route if Erik Spoelstra fails to deliver with a healthy roster? -- Cristiano, Bethlehem, Pa.

A: I think a bunch of coaches will on the clock because of the way this offseason's coaching carousel played out. With only the opening in Denver remaining, it means that we likely will go into next season with Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, among others, on the sidelines. Leading candidates generally frown on taking over at midseason (George Karl was an exception last season), because they prefer to put their systems in from the start of camp. But there will be many big-name possibilities hanging over the coaching industry. All of that said, the Heat, during Riley's tenure, have always hired in-house. And I'm not sure that Riley would necessarily be willing to work with something whose philosophy differs from his own. But if you're asking if Spoelstra will be on the clock? Yes, he will. Such is what happens when you have never won a playoff series without LeBron James on your roster.

Q: Anyone else find the Dwyane Wade appearances at a high school graduation and on ABC a little too timely? Sure seems like damage control, given the bad press he's been getting with all the talk about leaving the Heat. -- Cris.

A: Actually, I look at it the other way, that most of the sentiment I've experienced is that Wade stands as the damaged party, considering his previous contract concessions. As for his attendance at Western High School's graduation at Nova Southeastern University? I thought it was the type of act that shows how much having an athlete as a community icon can mean. No matter the motivation, it was a special moment that created a lifetime of memories for a graduating class.

Q: Last year, Emeka Okafor was to be chased by many teams once he returned healthy. As I recall the Heat were very high on that list of teams. Any news on if he'll return to basketball this season, and if the Heat could make a run for him as their backup center, allowing a trade for Birdman's expiring contract? -- Chris.

A: I would find it difficult to fathom that after last season's experiment with Danny Granger that the Heat would invest anything more than the minimum on a player with significant injury questions. That Heat's salary resources are limited to the point that they have to get just about every personnel decision correct going forward.


June 5, 2015

Q: Hello, Ira. There have been so many storylines about the Heat season and current offseason rumors (the loss of Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts due to injury; the signing of Hassan Whiteside; although Dwyane Wade's knees were quiet, yet he missed time because of his hamstrings; trading for Goran Dragic; missing the playoffs; potential draftee; free agency; and now rumors that Wade may leave the team due to possible broken contract negotiations). I think the one story that has gotten lost amid everything else that is Heat related is the questionable roster/team that Pat Riley ultimately put together to represent Heat Nation last season. Once the former players were resigned and then Luol Deng, McRoberts, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams and Shannon Brown were added, the Heat was loaded with household names. Although the names were known, for some the time had passed or their skill sets were just not good enough, leaving many holes in the roster. Here are the reasons that team was doomed: 1. The team's best 3-point shooter (getting playing time) was their finesse 6-11 power forward who was masquerading as a center (Williams was the only shooter on the team, but lack of size and defense began to keep him stuck on the bench). 2. The team's second best 3-point shooter was their potential starting power forward in McRoberts who was a newcomer, unable to participate in training camp, and would not be available at the start of the season. 3. That starting frontline was going to be dominated on the boards (the Heat only signed Whiteside after McRoberts was lost for the season, and even with his dominating performances the team was still near the bottom of the league in rebounding). 4. The 2014 Finals should have been the last straw for a Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole backcourt (it didn't matter which was to be moved in the offseason, but I had seen enough to know that they could no longer work in tandem; and they were pretty awful when on the court together last season). 5. The very athletic Brown whose best days were for making highlight plays in the open court was the backup shooting guard to make it out of camp, yet in his entire NBA career he could never really "shoot" the ball. 6. The league seemed to believe that Granger was an end-of-the-rotation guy at best, but Riley signed him to be a major contributor off the bench; he was a newcomer who, also, would not be available at the start of the season and by midseason the league appeared to have had a more accurate assessment of what Granger had left. 7. Their backup center was a "still not ready for all the moments" Justin Hamilton and the backup power forward were the aging Birdman and Haslem, respectively, who both now struggle to finish at the rim and neither ever had a low-post game. 8. Then, once Brown got released, Riley never found a backup shooting guard to take hold or consistently contribute from the position. It was clearly becoming evident to Heat fans that this team had personnel issues but Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra continued to stress that "we have enough." After the ailment for Bosh derailed any possibilities of the Dragic trade really paying off last season, Riley did, however, find a group of young scrappy players that competed hard (but to no playoff avail) until the season was finally over. So is it possible that Wade feels that Riley sacrificed team success last year and if some holes aren't filled with more reliable personnel in the offseason, possibly will sacrifice team success this upcoming season because he still envisions putting together one last dynasty in 2016? With the current CBA, free agency, players' union and with players now more than ever utilizing their rights and leverage to play with whom and for whom they choose, generational teams maybe be a thing of the past.  Thus, do you believe Wade has lost some trust and is no longer willing to sacrifice millions as he knows he only has so many years left at to pursue championships while still be a major contributor? -- Nikki.

Q: Well, you certainly covered all the bases. I do believe Dwyane has lost some trust, and perhaps even more than "some." I also believe he knows he only has so many years left and doesn't want to continue to remain in wait-and-see mode as his career odometer continues to rack up mileage. You are correct, if he was winning now, the salary might not be as much of a sticking point. This is what happens you when have an older player in your core -- you have to play for the moment. The upcoming season could be another "moment" that gets away from the Heat. But Riley also has shown a willingness to fast-track, as he did with Dragic this past season. The question is whether the Heat are "all in" for 2015-16. I'm not sure that is the case at the moment. And Dwyane probably recognizes that, as well. Should DeAndre Jordan leave the Clippers, that could open the door there for Dwyane to play alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, although that could require sacrificing Jamal Crawford or J.J. Redick or both.

Q: Is Zoran Dragic's contract guaranteed? Could the Heat cut him if they wanted to? -- Akinwole, Blue Bell, Pa.

A: It is guaranteed, and to cut him would mean eating his salary. Beyond that, Zoran's presence obviously plays a part in re-signing Goran Dragic, considering how they arrived as a package deal in February. The greater question might be whether Zoran could be part of the 3-point solution the Heat need to find. And that could come down to the question of whether he can develop into an NBA-caliber defender. Part of that answer could be whether Erik Spoelstra is willing to play more zone, now that he has Hassan Whiteside to anchor the middle.

Q: Hi, Ira. Can we conclude whoever the Heat draft will determine what will happen with current players if they opt in/out or are traded? For example, if they draft a center/power forward, is Josh McRoberts the odd man out? Or, if they get a small forward, is Luol Deng opting out? And if they get a shooting guard, is Dwyane Wade possibly paid what he wants to mentor his future replacement? -- Bryan, Fort Lauderdale.

A: The more I look at this draft, which I think has enough depth of talent to deliver a contributor at No. 10, I think you draft the best player available first, and then address the remaining pieces afterward. I do not believe the position played by the draft pick will necessarily impact what is in place, considering the Heat's lack of depth by the end of last season. More likely is the Heat sit down on June 26 and reformulate based on what happens on July 25.


June 4, 2015

Q: I'm a huge fan of Dwyane Wade and the Heat since 2005 and I would puke if I see him in another uniform other that Miami's. Here's an idea: Let's say the Heat give Wade a contract for around $12 million to $15 million a year and gave him additional bonuses and incentives of maybe $2 million if he play in 70 games and another bonus or incentive if he plays in 75 games. Does it sound like an option? Does the NBA permit that type of compensation? Do those bonuses/incentives counts against the team's salary cap? -- Edgardo, Puerto Rico.

A: First, don't puke. Second, bonuses are allowed, but in many cases such basic bonuses also would count against the salary cap and the luxury tax. What you can't do, as some have suggested, is either pay Wade for non-basketball purposes or assure him of future compensation in the front office. While the notion of a bonus for games played sounds good on paper, the problem is that a player then might go out on the court, perhaps just for a token appearance, when rest actually might be the preferable option in order to be fit for the playoffs. Basically, it comes down to Wade and the Heat making an honest assessment of how many games Dwyane is capable of playing at his age, and then going from there.

Q: Ira, is it possible that the Heat would not shed any tears if Wade opts out and leaves? Based on his body of work last season, he doesn't seem to fit what the Heat need with the inability to hit 3-pointers or beat his man off the dribble consistently, along with lackluster defense. He also needs the ball in his hands which seems illogical if Goran Dragic re-signs. It's been a great run but do we need another Kobe Bryant situation with payment for services previously rendered? At this point in his career, he may be better served coming off the bench as the offensive option with the second unit. -- Howard, Palm City.

A: This is why I hate what is playing out at the moment, negotiations that are fueling talk about what Dwyane's isn't. What he is, at the moment, is still one of the best two-guards in the league. If Dwyane walks in free agency, the Heat would be limited to mere exception-type money to replace him. And do you really want Mike Dunleavy Jr. instead of Dwyane? This is where the talk has to stop and the common sense has to start. This also is when the Heat have to rebuild trust that clearly has waned.

Q: If the Heat don't get a player they want at No. 10, could they turn that pick over to the Sixers? -- Rodney, Sarasota.

A: Not to complete the deal under the terms it is written, but certainly if the 76ers were amenable. But that also is not happening, because there will be multiple options for the Heat at No. 10, whether it is a player to fill a need (Devin Booker), a ready-to-go product (Frank Kaminsky), a prospect to mold (Kelly Oubre) or a much-needed wing (Stanley Johnson). There is sufficient depth in this draft to produce something more than a mere consolation prize at No. 10. The goal is to forward a first-rounder to the 76ers when it is out of the lottery, after the Heat return to the playoffs.


June 3, 2015

Q: What has a better chance of happening: American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown or the Miami Heat signing Kevin Durant in 2016? So what are the early Las Vegas odds on Pat Riley signing Kevin Durant? And if the Miami Heat do have a shot at getting Kevin Durant, why wouldn't Dwyane Wade opt in for another year? Riley has the rings, the system, a proven track record with his last student (LeBron James) and sunshine. However, the biggest selling point could be the weak competition in the East. Kevin Durant doesn't have to play in a NBA Final series in every round in the West! -- Stuart.

A: First, one of Durant's associates in South Florida has been telling me for months that if Durant leaves the Thunder it would be to return home to Washington. Your secondary point might be more valid, about a player wanting out of the Western Conference grinder. Look, if Anthony Davis continues to rise with the Pelicans, and if the Suns and Jazz maximize their lottery picks, the West only will get tougher. I'm not much of a handicapper, but American Pharaoh already is two-thirds of the way there. I don't think Pat Riley's master plan is anywhere as close to the finish line. There simply are waaaay too many variables over the next 13 months. And beyond all that, there is absolutely no way the math works with Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside earning in the $20 million range and Dwyane Wade even in the $10 million range (which isn't happening). That's $70 million in cap space right there. But, hey, Riley certainly has the right to put his superfecta money where he wants.

Q: How should we react to those Heat videos of Chris Bosh working out and Mario Chalmers back in the gym? -- Niles.

A: That Bosh is moving closer to the complete recovery and complete return anticipated, and that Chalmers' knee procedure last week was as minor as indicated by the Heat. It is interesting, that with the body clock the Heat have had the past four years, how two of the mainstays from those four runs to the NBA Finals couldn't keep themselves out of the gym in June. What was equally impressive with the Bosh video put out by the Heat was the passion of Erik Spoelstra during those drills. He remains very much driven. That made it good signs all around.

Q: Ira, lately you’ve been saying how the players' association and players have been dissuading top-salaried players to play at a discount so that their teams would have more cash to bring in other mid-level players under the strict salary cap. This doesn't make sense to me. Essentially they are saying for the top two percent of players to get paid what they feel they are worth, the other 98 percent fight for the remaining available salaries. This would actually be detrimental to the majority of the players, who now are being underpaid for their services. Why would the majority of players stand behind this notion? The problem is not top players playing for less than max, the problem is the strict and overreaching CBA that was put in place after the Heat's Big Three formed. This hard cap is what is hurting the league. Am I wrong?  -- Yunasi, Miami Beach.

A: No one is trying to squeeze anyone. But if enough players stand their grand in such situations, it will expose the limitations of the salary cap and perhaps force owners to make decisions about the quality of rosters they can construct. It's not players trying to claim the entire pie for themselves, it's about hoping to eventually create a larger overall pie. Remember, even before LeBron left last summer, he made it clear that he would require the full maximum, just as Kobe Bryant previously stood his ground. This is not player vs. player. This is player vs. The Establishment.


June 2, 2015

Q: There is a scenario that Pat Riley could execute, either at the trading deadline or a year from now, that would positively impact the salary cap: Trade Chris Bosh. Of course that is dependant on Bosh returning to form as a top forward, which won't be known for a number of months. But with Hassan Whiteside, this year's No. 10 pick and Luol Deng and/or Josh McRoberts, and perhaps a surprise or two, it might create an overall better balance and team suited to go deep into the playoffs. Bosh is a supportive player and he could again be in demand in Houston or, who knows nine or twelve months from now, when his salary won’t be as big a hit as it is now. And given the fact that Riley is both creative and generally willing to make a tough deal . . . -- Dick.

A: From the moment Chris signed his contract last July, he knew he would be on the clock. And the reality is that the criticism already had begun before he was lost with his illness. While the overriding concern, correctly, from that point was on Chris' health, you can bet that the expectations will resume where they left off. As long as the Heat remain in chase mode when it comes to championships, I think everything will be in play. That doesn’t mean that Chris can't (and potentially won't) eventually be part of the solution. But in a salary-cap league, you have to keep all options open, When Chris re-signed with the Heat last summer, he was guaranteed his money. But that didn't necessarily lock him in to all five seasons with the Heat. The Heat need Bosh to be great. There certainly were flashes of that last season.

Q: Why do think Dwyane Wade chose now, this upcoming free agency to demand more money? He's always been willing to sacrifice for the good of the team if it meant it would help us win. Is he simply looking to get repaid for his sacrifices? Or is he no longer willing to play for less because he feels it's no longer worth it based on factors like age, health and roster personnel? Those factors could all play a part in a guy trying to pocket as much money as possible before closing the curtains on a career. I'm trying to make sense of the timing. There's no doubt in my mind Wade wants another ring before it's all said and done. But if Miami can't build the roster to help him get that, pocketing as much money as you can before finally dancing with retirement or simply heading elsewhere really are his only options -- Ben.

A: First, for all the conjecture, we have not heard the words out of Dwyane's mouth demanding that he get paid. But I do think the narrative in the league has changed. With new leadership in the players' union, and with the possibility of a new round of labor negotiations in coming years, I think players are being dissuaded, possibly from peers, from simply conceding on contracts to help facilitate teams round out rosters. If there was no salary cap, there would be no need to get caught up in such decisions. And the players know it.

Q: Do you think Dwayne Wade has the hunger and drive for another one or two NBA championships? You don't hear him say, "I want to show the world I can win without LeBron" (the way Kobe Bryant kept talking about championships after Shaquille O'Neal and even Pau Gasol left Los Angeles). -- Stuart.

A: And that is the Part B to the Wade salary equation. No matter the age and injury, is the championship desire where it stood before age and injury entered the equation? Kobe may have pushed for the money, but the accompanying rhetoric was of a player still bent on greatness. I think Dwyane is still there. But it would help if that was the rhetoric we were currently dealing with.


June 1, 2015

Q: Ira, any chance Goran Dragic can be convinced to take a five-year contract around $92 million, Dwyane Wade at four years and $50 million, and Luol Deng at two years, $11 million with a player option? This scenario gives the Heat some wiggle room in 2016, especially with the ballooning salary cap and the expiring contracts of Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers. Am I missing something? -- Gabriel, Miami.

A: I would venture as far as to say you're missing everything. The Heat are coming off a lottery season and have nothing but question marks about their future, including whether they can retain their franchise center a year from now. Dragic is under no obligation to offer the Heat a discount. Wade already has offered plenty of discounts. And Deng is closer to seeking one, final multi-year deal than putting that possibility on hold. Yes, the Spurs have been able to get such concessions, but that's also because the Spurs could offer the likelihood of annual championship contention. And I do think the players association would like, at every turn, to distance the NBA from the notion of individual salary concessions for the greater team good. You saw that starting with Kobe Bryant and even LeBron James asking for the maximum last summer. I'm not sure that the days of the NBA discount aren't coming to an end.

Q: With the numbers being what the numbers are, I still wonder if Pat Riley looks to trade Whiteside for one of the top three players in the draft. This allows far more flexibility in 2016 and could even put one of the top-tier free agents into play. We'd have two of the Top 10 rookies at scale for three to five years. Wouldn't you think this is a plausible scenario? -- Brian, Fort Lauderdale.

A: The problem with such thinking is that any team that trades for Whiteside would face the same issue the Heat are facing, lack of Bird Rights for the 2016 offseason, and therefore no guarantee of being able to outbid outside suitors. Plus, as you mentioned, teams at the top of the draft also can retain the advantage of securing a player on the rookie scale. I'm not sure the Timberwolves or Lakers would prefer Whiteside over Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, and the 76ers, at No. 3, don't appear to need another center. Basically, what I'm saying is I'm not sure Whiteside gets you into the Top 3. Then it comes down to the type of value Whiteside otherwise could fetch in a draft trade. And that, more than likely, would not be commensurate to his value to the Heat, even with the future uncertainty.

Q: Ira, there are a couple things we know about the upcoming draft: Charlotte is picking one spot ahead of us, and they are looking for a shooter like us. What's going to stop them from picking Devin Booker, one of the best if not the best shooter in the draft, resulting in someone like Stanley Johnson or Mario Hezonja sliding to us at 10? -- Michael, Melbourne, Australia.

A: If Pat Riley could wind up with Stanley Johnson or Mario Hezonja at No. 10, he would be doing the Happy Dance in the executive suite at AmericanAirlines Arena on June 25. (I'm not sure if he's on Periscope. So I'm not sure any of us will get to see it.) From what I'm hearing, the Hornets apparently are hoping to mine more out of No. 9 than Booker.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading

64°